Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs

Portrait of Secretary of State Jonathan C. Gibbs.

Portrait of Secretary of State Jonathan C. Gibbs, rc00407. Florida Memory. State Archives of Florida.

Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs was the first African-American Secretary of State and Superintendant of Public Instruction in Florida, and one of the most powerful African-American officeholders in Florida politics during Reconstruction.Gibbs was born free in Philadelphia in 1828. He and his brothers attended a Free School as children, but were forced to start working when their father died. Although anti-black and anti-abolitionist sentiments were the norm in this period, Gibbs was able to open the doors of opportunity for himself. A church scholarship sent him to Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and from there he went to Dartmouth. Although the president of the school was pro-slavery, several African-American students were admitted to the school in the years before the Civil War; Gibbs was the third African-American man to graduate from Dartmouth. The Princeton Theological Seminary followed, and although Gibbs didn’t graduate, he was ordained in 1856. He became active in the abolitionist and underground railroad movements in Philadelphia, and in 1865 went to the Carolinas to do missionary work with freed people. 1868 found him involved in Florida politics; that year he was one of eighteen African-Americans elected to the State Constitutional Convention. Governor Harrison Reed appointed him as Florida’s Secretary of State from 1868 to 1872, and in 1872 Gibbs also served as a Tallahassee City Councilman. In 1873, Governor Ossian Hart appointed Gibbs Superintendant of Public Instruction. As Superintendant, he made many important contributions in Florida’s public school system.Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs died on August 14, 1874, of a stroke.

Online Encyclopedia. 2011. Gibbs, Jonathan Clarkson (1828-1874). http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4255/Gibbs-Jonathan-Clarkson-1828-1874.html, accessed January 24, 2011.

Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs was the first African-American Secretary of State and Superintendant of Public Instruction in Florida, and one of the most powerful African-American officeholders in Florida politics during Reconstruction.

Gibbs was born free in Philadelphia in 1828. He and his brothers attended a Free School as children, but were forced to start working when their father died. Although anti-black and anti-abolitionist sentiments were the norm in this period, Gibbs was able to open the doors of opportunity for himself. A church scholarship sent him to Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and from there he went to Dartmouth. Although the president of the school was pro-slavery, several African-American students were admitted to the school in the years before the Civil War; Gibbs was the third African-American man to graduate from Dartmouth. The Princeton Theological Seminary followed, and although Gibbs didn’t graduate, he was ordained in 1856. He became active in the abolitionist and underground railroad movements in Philadelphia, and in 1865 went to the Carolinas to do missionary work with freed people. 1868 found him involved in Florida politics; that year he was one of eighteen African-Americans elected to the State Constitutional Convention. Governor Harrison Reed appointed him as Florida’s Secretary of State from 1868 to 1872, and in 1872 Gibbs also served as a Tallahassee City Councilman. In 1873, Governor Ossian Hart appointed Gibbs Superintendant of Public Instruction. As Superintendant, he made many important contributions in Florida’s public school system.

Gibbs died on August 14, 1874, of a stroke.

Information from: Online Encyclopedia. 2011. Gibbs, Jonathan Clarkson (1828-1874). http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4255/Gibbs-Jonathan-Clarkson-1828-1874.html, accessed January 24, 2011.

Further reading:

Brown, Canter Jr.

1998 Florida's Black Public Officials, 1867-1924. Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press.